Hi, I’m Lauren and I’m a listaholic. I have lists for everything. Lists for work, lists for home, lists of goals I’d like to accomplish someday. My lists really light my fire when it comes to getting things done. My greatest satisfaction is checking things off as complete. Though I love lists, this year I have been focused on bettering myself mentally and physically.
Something that I’ve come to realize is that if this was not addressed, that your life could turn into one big, never-ending task list. That was a pretty scary thought. Looking at my mortality from a birdseye view, I realized that I didn’t want my life to be summed up as one big list. I vowed to be more present with my family, friends, and my job. I started mindfulness practices and began to appreciate the small things. Experiences like watching my son starting to form sentences, listening to birds chirping, and feeling the warmth in exchanging smiles at the grocery store may have gone unnoticed.
I guess we should address the elephant in the room though, my massive to-do list. I have found a secret to staying focused and getting things done quicker than ever before, leaving more time to take in those little special moments that are truly the zest of life.
For as long as I can remember my biggest “to-do” items were always being moved to the bottom of the list. Sometimes getting done eventually, but other times it was easier to chalk them up as a loss. It seemed like things that should be driving my life like weight loss, saving money and self-care were the cabooses rather than the engineer driving my train to progress. This needed to change, but for a long time, I just didn’t know how to change it.
secret #1 – You have to start somewhere
The first step to tackling your to-do list is to start somewhere! Even when a task seems too big or unattainable you’ll never know until you try. Sometimes I think about how Disney movies apply to my life, maybe too much. I keep coming back to what Grand Pabbie said in Frozen II to Anna and Elsa. “When the future isn’t clear you just need to do the next right thing”. Take the first step, first. You got this! I always say, if you can do it for 30 days it will become a habit! Boy, are those first 30 days hard though. Here are a couple of examples of how this little trick has worked for me over the last few years.
I’ve struggled with my weight for my whole life. I got to the point after my son was born that I could no longer take it. I had to drop 50 pounds that I’ve been carrying around for way to long, but how? Weightloss, was the very last thing on my list but on the top of my mind. I have tried millions of yoyo diets and weight loss trends. Spoiler alert, they all ended with frustration and failure.
This time it was going to be different. I convinced myself that I was not going to diet, that I was going to make a healthy lifestyle change. For the first time I was following my own advice, 30 days to make it a habit. The first month was the hardest, but I was determined. I stopped eating bread, cut down on my sugar and replaced soda with seltzer water. Over the next 6 months I dropped not 50, but 80 pounds! By sticking to the habit, I’ve been able to keep most of the weight off and its been two and a half years! Just take that first step.
Secret #2- set reasonable goals
The weight is off, check the box and lets move on. Like I mentioned before my “self- betterment” checklist was huge coming into this year. It looked something like this.
- Learn everything there is to know about Mindfulness
- Do Yoga
- Start a Bullet Journal
- Create a Vision Board
- Find Work/Life Balance
- Wake up earlier!
- Start a Blog
- Find ways to start saying No
- Be a Better Mom
- A great wife and partner
- Be a Better Christian
How the heck was I supposed to “just take the first step” when I was walking towards life-impacting to-dos. These were no ordinary tasks, they were special. To me, special tasks should require, special attention. If I really wanted to do and be all the things on my list I knew it wouldn’t come easy. Sometimes, when things seem just a little to big, phone a friend, or friends in my case. I talked to doctors, therapists, friends, family, co-workers. I joined Facebook groups, listened to podcasts and wore out my Google search. Finally, I knew exactly what I needed to do to move forward. You’re not going to like this, but I had to start somewhere by creating bite-size goals that I would realistically commit to.
Could I schedule a date night once a month? Sure.
Could I read a verse or two of the Bible each day? Yep.
Couldn’t I realistically write one blog a week? Absolutely.
The secret to taking the first step, is to make your goal realistic so that you wont be setting yourself up for failure.
Secret #3 – Stay focused
So, my attention span is not the longest. I have a million ideas bouncing around in my head at all times. Sometimes, I just want to unscrew the light bulb to rest my mind a little bit. Sometimes I get so excited about an idea that it consumes me. Until the next genius idea comes up and I drop the current one like its hot. This leaves lots of unfinished, unaccomplished ideas, tasks and goals. This had to stop too. Easier said than done. I have my list, I took the first step, my goals are realistic now all I need is to focus. Again, special goals, special response. This time I found the solution to my focus challenge in a Facebook group.
This group is filled with strong, smart, and talented women from all over the world. They would ask questions and share things that helped them to grow as people. This was totally my crowd! I stayed in the background for a while until I felt comfortable and eventually built up to being a contributing member of the group. Around the time that people were starting to make their New Year’s Resolutions was the first time I heard rumblings of a website called FocusMate. People would share their experiences of how this website really helped them to get things done that they have been putting off. This piqued my interest enough that I started asking my good friend Google more about it.
Secret #4- Accountability
I learned all that there was to know about FocusMate. To sum it up, FocusMate is a website that connects people face to face that want to get things done. These people come from all over the world and the only requirement to participate is that you want to accomplish something. I thought, what the heck. My goals are big, I definitely wanted to tackle my list so I hopped on to reserve my time. After clicking on a calendar filled with times, little pictures of people, I booked my first session. Shortly after, I received an email explaining the process and confirming my reservation. Right before my scheduled time, I opened up my laptop, checked my audio and video and had a project in mind that I wanted to accomplish. When it was time, still feeling some reservations about talking to a complete stranger, I logged on.
I was welcomed via video chat by a gentleman from Boston named David. After a quick hello, David shared with me what he hoped to accomplish into our 50-minute session and then I did the same. At this point, you have the option to leave your mic on or mute it. Same with video, share your screen or not. It’s a personal choice. I got to working and wow! I got so much accomplished in those 50 focused minutes that I didn’t want to stop. When the time was up the gong went off and I checked in with David once more. He wanted to respond to 4 emails, and he did it. I wanted to get started on a big project and I did it too! It worked so well that soon after, I joined another session and another after that.
Then I got the bright idea that I could not only use FocusMate for work type projects but I could use it for personal goals as well. After reviewing my year goals again, I decided to tackle two goals for the price of one. Yoga and waking up early have both resided on my list for a long time. I would start….and then stop. Start…. and then stop again. This time was going to be different. I could feel let. The night before, I hopped on to Focusmate and reserved my 7:00 am time slot. I set my alarm but this felt different. Snooze doesn’t work when someone is on the other end of the computer waiting for you. I woke up, got my coffee and jumped on.
This time I was greeted by a woman from Denmark. It was 1 o’clock her time and she was working on a project for her job in the energy sector. Me, I was doing yoga and establishing a morning routine. After, doing my yoga, I still had time to read a little bit of my Bible, journal, and get ready for the day! That meant I was not only tackling two tasks off my list, but four! Winning!! I’ve been so pleased that I’ve been able to maintain my routine and make some of those big life dreams into my reality.
If it was easy everyone would do it
Seriously though, sometimes life is hard. Sometimes it all just seemed a bit to much. Ask yourself though, are you prepared to live with the what ifs? What if you lost those 50 pounds. What if you were more present in your marriage or in your kids lives. Those what ifs are definitely a hard pill to swallow but what was harder for me to do was imagine what my life could look like if I didn’t try. I’ll end with this quote, “Of course its hard, If it was easy, everyone would do it. Hard is what makes it great. Start today, take one step towards your beautiful future.